Never have I seen such a masterful job done by a flagman. Every time I drove past, I could see him, poised and attentive, just waiting to signal someone. Or perhaps point, with a rolled up flag. As if to say, “you - not there - over there!” On the occasions when a flag was waved, it was perfectly unfurled, almost magical. As if the entire world could be comfortably covered by a fuzzy baby blanket. The duties performed by our flagman this week were authoritative, yet comforting, at the same time. Many drivers mentioned how they had felt as if they were on notice, but simultaneously protected.
When I felt threatened at one point during the race by another driver, just one glimpse to the heavens down the front straight to see our flagman looking over his shrugged shoulder with a knowing glance said, “J.J. - don’t worry. It’s all good. I’ve got this. And you are my friend, so I will have the potentially offending driver under observation.” It’s just that caring and giving attitude that made John Byrnes possibly the best performing flagman that I have ever seen. “I give… because I love”, said John’s body language.
And for that, we thank you.
Tempers Flare at Oswego’s Supermodified Season Opener
OSWEGO, NY (May 13, 2013) – A night that began cold and damp, ended hot and heavy this past Saturday at Oswego Speedway.
With bone chilling temperatures in the air and a threat of rain for most of the day, Oswego Speedway held out and produced a night that many will remember for some time to come as a part of the Mitchell’s Speedway Press/CJ Ferlito Aggregates 52nd annual Novelis Supermodified ‘Kick-Off.’
After starting out somewhat calm and conservative, Saturday night’s 75-lap Novelis Supermodified season opening main event quickly escalated into a four car battle for supremacy around the 60-lap mark.
Former IndyCar veteran Davey Hamilton held the point as the race wound down after taking the lead from early race leader Brandon Bellinger at lap 15, pacing a three car line of chasers including Dave Gruel, Michael Barnes, and Otto Sitterly.
Sitterly, who started the event back in the ninth position, was relatively quiet for the majority of the race. After the halfway point however, the No. 7 machine came alive and the defending Speedway champion began to make quick work of his competition on the way to the front of the field.
At lap 63 Sitterly dove to the inside of third place running Barnes into the first turn to move into a podium position, setting his eyes next on the back bumper of the Gruel No. 50. From there, an already eventful evening ramped up even further.
In just a few laps Sitterly had set-up Gruel for another low side attempt into turn one, and on lap 66 committed to the low side of Gruel just passed the start finish line. The two drivers touched in the first corner with Gruel spinning off to a stop between the first and second corners. The Sitterly No. 7 continued on.
Both Sitterly and Gruel would be called to restart at the tail of the field.
The following few caution laps would prove dramatic, with both Gruel and Sitterly jockeying around each other, and ultimately seeing Gruel make contact with Sitterly’s left front wheel.
If that weren’t enough Sitterly would then pull his car to a halt on the front straight, exit the machine, and walk back to his pit area dropping himself out of the event.
Saturday night was not the first occasion of a driver displaying his emotions on the Speedway’s historic main straight away.
One instance saw Nolan Swift park his racing machine on the front stretch, only to have the car towed back into the pit area.
Hamilton, Sitterly’s teammate, would go on to the night’s big win over Barnes and Dave Danzer. Sitterly would end with a DNF 12th place finish, while Gruel crossed the line 10th.
At race’s end Gruel was available for comment, and was not at all pleased with Sitterly’s attempt.
“I didn’t see anything until we actually made contact,” Gruel said. “It was that bonzai deal, he’s done it to a lot of cars, and he’s done it to me a couple times and wrecked me a couple times doing it. I have given him all the chances in the world and I just want him to race clean with me. I didn’t see him until we made contact and that says to me that he wasn’t far enough in there.”
Saturday’s incident was not the first time Gruel and Sitterly have come together during hard racing. In June of last year the two touched in Oswego’s third corner sending Sitterly directly into the third turn wall, ending his night.
During the 2012 Fall Championship the two drivers again brushed wheels in nearly the same fashion as this past Saturday night, with Sitterly pulling in low on Gruel into the first corner. Each car washed up and out of the racing groove, but continued on with no incident.
When asked about their previous altercations, Gruel was very matter of fact.
“Yeah (we’ve talked) and the funny thing is that it is always my fault,” Gruel said on Saturday night. “If it’s a racing deal that is one thing, but when somebody blatantly drives into the side of you and then blames it on you, I just don’t understand it.”
After reaching out to Sitterly on Monday, the defending Novelis Supermodified ‘Kick-Off’ winner had no direct comment on Saturday’s incident. However, Sitterly has previously addressed his mindset in similar situations when asked about his aggressive driving style during his April interview for Oswego Speedway’s Shop Talk.
“When somebody just slips a little out of four and you know you’ve got the pedal down and you beat them into that first turn and hit you hit your spot first, he’s got to back off,” said Sitterly. “If not, then there’s probably going to be contact. Even if you slide out of your line a little bit, you have made your move and beat them to the mark where everybody knows. If he doesn’t back off, or you slide out of your line a little bit, it is unfortunate. The cars are so very close.”
While Saturday night’s incident will be chalked up in most people’s eyes as the product of good hard racing, video of the incident will be available on Inside Oswego Speedway at the Speedway website for fans to formulate their own opinion on Tuesday.
One thing is certain however, the competition level at Oswego Speedway continues to climb, with every inch of racing real estate becoming more valuable and hard side by side racing becoming common place.
The next chance for fans to see the wheel to wheel action produced at the ‘Steel Palace’ will be Saturday, May 25 with the running of the Helena Chemical Company Memorial Weekend “Triple-Header.”
The Race of Champions Modifieds will join the Pathfinder Bank SBS Series and the Novelis Supermodified division for 185-laps of main event action featuring the Jim Shampine Memorial 75, the Richie Evans Memorial 75, and the Tony White Memorial 35.
For more information on Oswego Speedway be sure to visit www.oswegospeedway.com. You can also LIKE the (Official) Oswego Speedway page at facebook.com/OswegoSpeedway, or FOLLOW on Twitter @OswegoSpeedway. To purchase tickets or order merchandise please call the Speedway box office at (315) 342-0646.
About Oswego Speedway: Oswego Speedway, a sports entertainment company, is a 5/8 mile semi-banked pavement racing oval located off the shores of Lake Ontario in scenic Oswego, NY. Oswego Speedway has been a continuously run weekly racing venue since August, 1951. The premier open-wheel pavement short track cars in the world, Supermodifieds, run weekly at Oswego Speedway making Oswego the only weekly Supermodified racing venue in the world. The Small Block Supermodifieds accompany the full blown Supers on a weekly Saturday night schedule which runs from May through September. Oswego Speedway is mentioned in racing circles as the “Indy of the East,” as no fewer than a dozen past and present competitors have competed at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway including Mario Andretti, arguably the greatest driver of all time, two-time Indy 500 champion Gordon Johncock, along with former International Classic Champions Bentley Warren, Joe Gosek, and Davey Hamilton.
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Former modified, late model, supermodified, and Silver Crown driver Billy Whittaker returns to Oswego Speedway, but this time, not behind the wheel. “Billy Whittaker CARS and TRUX” has joined the JJ Andrews / Team Tapout #93 as a major sponsor for the 2013 season. “Although I don’t have time to get behind the wheel these days, I am still happy to be a supporter of auto racing, and J.J.’s small block supermodified team”, said Whittaker.
Billy Whittaker’s is known for excellent quality vehicles, serviced on the premises, that can be purchased for as low as $30 a week (cars) or $50 a week (trucks). And they have financing for everyone. Log on at www.billywhittakercars.com, (40 second finance application) call 315-668-CARS, or stop by at our recently expanded location at 309 U.S. Route 11, Central Square, N.Y.
J.J. Andrews has been racing in the small block supermodified division since 1997, and currently sits in 5th place in all-time points. Andrews drives the Jason Simmons owned Team Tapout #93, Hedger Chassis. Andrews won on opening night in 2012 in his first ride ever for Team Tapout, and finished 9th in the overall point standings. “With a fresh car, fresh Morrison power plant, and now the great partnership with Billy Whittaker for 2013, I can’t wait to get the season started!", added Andrews.
Oswego Speedway runs Saturday nights, starting May 4th, until mid-September. With pre-season registration the highest it has been in years in both the supermodified and small block supermodified divisions, excitement for the 2013 season is at a fever pitch. Oswego Speedway – the home of the supermodifieds. Don’t miss out!
For more information, or to join the team, contact J.J. Andrews at JJcqracing@aol.com.
A skeleton crew of six Oswego / Mexico, N.Y. area troublemakers will make their journey south this weekend, to Atlantic City, New Jersey, for the indoor TQ races at Boardwalk Hall. This is an annual event for several of us, although fewer people have worked it into their plans for 2013. But the ones that are going, will not miss out on one ounce of laughs.
Each year memories are made, and I have a lot of stories to tell, if you’re interested. Many of which are not for a family blog. Here are some of them. I know these are vague, so feel free to ask for the rest of the story. And please chime in with some of your own Atlantic City memories!
· Repeatedly owning Larry Lee at LCR on the bus ride down was a highlight during several bus trips.
· Searching for HOURS around the city with Mike Bond for our lost travel partner Corey Norton, the last person on earth to get a cell phone. Hours!
· More bus memories include laughing until we cried with Scott Seeley, and “the one who makes the diamonds”.
· Purchasing some excellent jewelry on the Boardwalk with Bob Garafolo proved to be a not so profitable experience.
· Meeting up with an “independent businessman” was good for a chuckle - and a scare, with a race fan to be left nameless.
· It was once discovered by Chris Lupa on an AC run that a bathroom item would work perfectly as a cooler.
· A major popcorn mess on the boardwalk with Keith Gilliam created some excellent pictures.
· Learning a new trick at the Chelsea Pub with Chris Perley.
· A large gambling group had a couple of laughs together and almost made us rich – before it all went away. Thanks for the advice, Nancy Lewis.
· “Virginia City Buffet” is an annual Saturday morning visit, usually our first chance to visit with Floyd Brooks.
· Every year, coincidentally, it’s a different person’s birthday during our traditional Friday night dinner at Hooters. Maybe this year will be Mark Sledziona again, since it actually IS his birthday.
· A late night dunk into the Atlantic Ocean is one story that gets the memories going for many of us. Especially John “Luther” Gray.
· One of my favorite quotes of all times came from a breakfast stop on the way home on Sunday morning, involving a traveler by the name of Andy Noto.
· The “parade” that takes place late night on Friday is always entertaining. As are the dance moves demonstrated by a Mr. Robert Hollenbeck.
Oh – and as long as we’re there, I also look forward to the races! Yeah…those should be fun, also! See you there!
Not so fast.
That was the word that has been moving around recently. But I don’t think that’s going to be the case. According to my “digging", there are no definite decisions made about Evans Mills and their 2013 plans as of yet. While I believe the promoter of another north country paved track is interested in adding Evans Mills, I don’t believe that any definite deals have been cut just yet.
The other part of the discussion was whether or not Evans Mills would be changed to a Friday or Sunday, instead of their current Saturday night schedule. Also not decided yet.
So if they do move to a Friday or Sunday, will they then add the small block supers on a weekly basis? Not likely either, I’m told. But a once monthly small block supermodified event may be a possibility, once the rest of the schedule, and the rest of the divisions are decided upon.
Is that enough non-answers yet?
Changes may be happening at Evans Mills. But they are still down the road. It’s a long winter, race fans!
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As a driver/owner in the Limited Supermodified division, JJ Andrews covers mostly Oswego Speedway events, from a driver's point of view.